Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Write a Popular Blog

My agent, still hoping that I can turn myself into a popular and successful author, has recommended assiduous blogging.

How to become a popular blogger? Probably a bad idea to use words like assiduous. Writers love words, readers maybe not so much. Readers want a good story. Readers want what they want.

What do readers want? I went online to find out how to do a successful blog, and was advised that I must first ask myself this question, before I even begin blogging. Writing my books, I don't ask this question. I ask myself, what would I find charming and compelling? And then I write it. Those that like it, find it, or many of them do, and the others don't hear about it, which is what is bothering my agent.

Still, blogging is another animal. The successful blogger must find out people's needs and fulfill them. It is said that one can do this by analyzing Google statistics. I was discussing this with Harold at Sneddon's this morning as we ate breakfast. He said, "Ah. Airline reservations, travel information..." This didn't sound like something I was prepared to offer. I came home and looked up Google statistics. It seems that what people really want is advice on anal fisting and how to have a miscarriage.


I need hardly tell you that I don't find these topics charming or compelling. So I'm making a New Year's resolution. The public be damned. If what you want is kinky sex, questionable medical advice and tiny little words, you must look elsewhere. I hereby resolve to write charming and compelling things on my blogs, in big words if I feel like it. I'm going to please myself. Stick around if you want to.

Monday, December 20, 2010


It struck me like a thunderbolt. It was the strangest thing.

I was sitting at the dining room table here, talking to my husband and a friend of ours, my fingers idly roving over the keys of my Macbook. I can't even remember what made me think of it, but a children's book I used to own popped into my mind and I found myself doing a search on the title.

Suddenly, there it was.

When I say I used to own this book, I mean it was the book I used to look at all the time when I was little, the one I used to read to my sister, the one on which we based a large part of our fantasy life for years and years. Peter Pan. The story of a bunch of little kids with no parental supervision.

It was the lack of parental supervision that made the story attractive to us. My father built a dollhouse for my sister, and a nice one, too. My mother crocheted rugs for it. We had, I think, a dozen thumb-sized babies who were supposed to live in it. Our parents gave us a mother and father to take care of them, carefully dressed and groomed grownup dolls made of rubber-covered wire in a scale of one inch to the foot. The mother had black eyeliner and red lips. The house was splendidly furnished and decorated.

But whenever we played with the dollhouse stuff, the babies put the plaster of Paris cakes and ham and the tiny pillows and blankets into a bus we had made out of erector set parts, climbed aboard, and hit the road. Mom and Dad stayed behind in the dollhouse. We had the most charming adventures, none of which I can remember now. Peter's gang. I can't remember exactly when we stopped playing Peter, but it must have been when we got to be teenagers. We grew up.

My mother gave me the book at some point. She said she meant to give it to Liz, but I had written my name in the front of it, Kathleen Gallison, probably in the first cursive I learned to write, back in third grade. I cherished it for a long time, but I can't remember seeing it in this house. We have lived here for twenty-seven years.

Sometimes I used to look for it. I would have liked to read it to John when he was little. Not that I would have wanted him to shun parental authority. When he was a small child, though, he used to remind me of the children in that book, the one illustrated by Roy Best. They were so beautiful. Their cheeks were so pink. The images have stayed in my mind all these years, so that when I saw that the book, the very edition, was available online for mere money, I had to have it.

"Why?" the men said. "What will you do with it?"

"I'll look at it," I said. "It's beautiful." I showed them the pictures. "This was Roy Best's masterwork. All the rest of his stuff was nothing but tacky pinups." Our friend thought that Tinkerbell was hot.

"The pinups probably paid the rent," my husband said.

"All the same." Ninety dollars was a lot of money for an old book, but quite cheap for a work of art. Hadn't I just gotten a check for royalties on my e-backlist? I would be a fool not to buy it, the desire of my heart. A few clicks of the mouse and Peter Pan was mine.

Lying in bed that night, I thought, I ought to give it to my sister for Christmas. It means as much to her as it does to me. Then in the morning I realized there was probably another one for sale out there. We could both have it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Trailer Park

Book trailers are all the thing right now. Nobody knows whether they do any good for one's sales or not. Still, a number of us have them, both writers who sell well and those who sell not so well. I made a great book trailer last year to promote The Edge of Ruin, because editing film is a hobby of mine. Here it is again, in case you missed it:

Now I have to make another one for The Brink of Fame, which is due out in August of next year, and for some reason it's harder. The music to play behind the trailer does not come readily to mind. The arc of the trailer is elusive. The computer I made the first one on was so clogged with stuff when I went to use it that I had to format the hard drive, reinstall Windows and then try to find drivers for my peripherals. That ate up a couple of days. The book is really good. I like it a lot. Maybe I'll just tell people the book is really good and I like it a lot.

It might be that a slick, professional looking trailer is no longer necessary after all. This one by Stuart Ross might be the worst trailer of 2010. Or it might be the best. The Huffington Post can't decide, but you can, if you want. Leave me a comment. Tell me what you like in a trailer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inspirational Comic Book Characters

A fad of some sort was going around Facebook last week whereby we would all put up pictures of favorite comic book characters from our childhood, instead of pictures of our own faces, to be our profile pictures. This was supposed to strike a blow against child abuse somehow. I don't quite get that, but I'm game for anything that will postpone the work I have to do on my novel.

So I decided to give it a shot.

You must understand that when I was growing up comic books were it, as far as entertainment went, comic books and radio shows. We're talking about the forties, a decade when women were strong, because they had to be. The role models I found in the comics were stronger and hotter than even my mother could stand, which is why I had to sneak my comic books under the covers and read them by flashlight.

Naturally, I wanted to grow up to be Wonder Woman. Except that Wonder Woman seemed to get captured and tied up all the time. What was up with that?

Okay, the Dragon Lady was good. The worst thing that ever happened to her was that she was kind of sweet on Terry, of Terry and the Pirates. Meanwhile she got to be the boss of everyone in sight.

Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, wrote interesting women. (For those of you under a certain age, The Spirit was a comic-book sized supplement that came with the Sunday paper, and Eisner was a genius.) I didn't like Ellen Dolan all that well--she was the police commissioner's helpless, often-kidnapped daughter, The Spirit's sweetheart--but the bad girls were people I wanted to grow up to be. They tied him up on occasion.

I wanted to be P'Gell.

Al Capp, creator of Li'l Abner, drew a few cool females. My mother, unhappy with my untidy room, called me Moonbeam McSwine once. Moonbeam was certainly a strong woman, in more than one sense of the word. But I did not grow up to be Moonbeam, or P'Gell, or the Dragon Lady. Instead, I grew up to be Mammy Yokum, wearer of hats, mother of sons, worker of amazing miracles.

And that's not a bad thing.